Three Keys: Connecticut

The Army football team prepares for another game in Yankee Stadium. We’ve seen the Black Knights play Notre Dame and Rutgers in past seasons inside the home of the Bronx Bombers. Now, Army tries to take down an opponent that is gaining confidence. That last detail about Connecticut offers a window into how West Point can win.


THREE KEYS TO BEATING CONNECTICUT

1 – First things first.
We’ve been focusing on fourth-quarter strength and durability over the past month, but it’s time to adjust that focus this week. Connecticut is a confident team, growing more assured of its abilities with each successive week. The Huskies have not allowed the first half of the season and a 1-6 start to get them down. First-year coach Bob Diaco has set an example for first-year Army coach Jeff Monken, getting his team to ambush a UCF squad that – while nothing close to the team that won the 2014 Fiesta Bowl over Baylor – is still pretty solid, at least to the point that it had a 3-0 record in the American Athletic Conference heading into November. Connecticut is feeling very good about itself, so the way to beat a team with that kind of emotional profile is to punch it in the mouth and make it doubt itself as soon as possible.

Let’s look at this game in the following manner: If Connecticut gets a 10-point lead at halftime, Army’s going to have a hard time coming back – any reasonable person should doubt the Black Knights’ ability to mount a comeback. West Point needs to get on top of this game – and the Huskies – in the first 20 minutes if it wants to gain the best possible chance of winning. Strictly in terms of game play and game flow, Army has to win the first 20 minutes on Saturday.

2 – Use the circumstances of this game, which could really help Army. Two elements of this matchup can help the Black Knights. First, UConn used Deshon Foxx, a wide receiver, as the centerpiece of a change-of-pace option package last week against UCF. Foxx ran for a 68-yard touchdown and collected 102 rushing yards over the course of 60 minutes. Army is in position to defend UConn’s option plays, which played a big role in giving the Huskies their best offensive performance of the season against UCF. If the Black Knights do stuff the Huskies’ option plays, they’ll take a big step forward.

The other point to keep in mind here is that Army was at a disadvantage against Air Force because the Falcons had played a triple-option team (New Mexico) in their previous game. In this game, Connecticut has not been preparing for other triple-option teams – not over the past few weeks, at any rate. Army’s style of offense could be tough for UConn to smoke out; this makes the lead-in to this game more favorable than the lead-in to Air Force.

3 – Quality of passes, not quantity. It’s been said before and it will be said again: Army doesn’t have to prove it can complete many passes. The Black Knights need the passes they complete to be big-hitters. One 50-yard pass means a lot more than seven 12-yard passes if the 12-yard passes don’t convert red-zone or short-field third downs (or something to that effect). A 12-yard pass on second and seven from its own 20 won’t help Army that much. Army needs to pry open big plays once or twice in a game with the pass – that’s what’s going to provide much more lasting value.

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